How to clean a dishwasher: Using GREEN cleaners you already have

We often think of our dishwasher as one of the cleanest machines around the house. After all, they’re designed to clean all sorts of kitchen utensils. However, even a dishwasher has the potential to get dangerously unclean.

So, are you ready to learn how to clean a dishwasher? Choose traditional chemical cleaners or home remedies and get ready to brighten up its interior. From the filter to the tubes and surface, your dishwasher will look as good as new by the time you’re done with it.

What you will learn:

  • Cleaning all parts of a dishwasher is a relatively easy process that you can do yourself.

    Also of Interest: 11 Best Retro Refrigerators Available In 2022 

  • You can clean your dishwasher using home remedies.
  • You’ll need to leave the power on when cleaning your dishwasher using most conventional methods.
  • You will need to turn your dishwasher off for some maintenance. We show you how and when.

If you clean it with the wrong cleaners you can really mess it up which will lead to huge repairs.

The rest of this article will discuss how to clean a dishwasher in a few simple steps.

How to Clean a Dishwasher Filter

Most dishwashers have a filter located underneath the bottom rack. 

Remove the rack by sliding it right off the tracks, ensuring that you don’t pull up until it’s completely off. Otherwise, you might damage the wheels! 

Once you’ve taken out the rack, you can remove the filter (sometimes there will be two, in which case you need to remove both).

Turn on the sink and wash the filter(s) using warm to hot water. Allow the water to thoroughly rinse off bits and pieces of food and other gunk that naturally builds up over time. Using a sponge, brush down the filter gently to remove service debris into the running water.

Next, soak the sponge in hot water and dish soap until it’s sudsy and ready to clean. It would be best if you used a proper cleaner, as only using water won’t achieve a deep clean. Filters that aren’t properly cleaned end up smelling bad, and they can harbor dangerous mold and bacteria as well.

Finally, scrub down the filter with the sudsy sponge and rinse the soap off under the hot water. You’re now free to reinstall the filter(s) back into its home underneath the bottom rack. That’s all there is to it!

Note: Some dishwashers contain self-cleaning filters that don’t require manual washing. If you have a dishwasher that needs a filter cleaning, you should perform these steps once a month or so as needed. A good sign that it’s time to clean your dishwasher’s filter is when one of the following happens:

  • Your dishwasher smells a bit ‘off’ when you open it after a cycle
  • The dishes aren’t coming out clean, i.e., food and stains are still present
  • You haven’t cleaned it within a month!

Home (Green) Remedies for Cleaning a Dishwasher

There are dozens of home remedies to help you clean your dishwasher at home easily. Still, you probably only want the best methods. Why waste your time with pesky chemicals if you can take on the job with various household items that you already have lying around? 

To clean your dishwasher without a professional cleaner, all you need is white vinegar, baking soda, a cup, and a little bit of patience.

Step 1

Remove all of the dishes from your dishwasher, regardless of whether or not they’re clean. You should clean the filter using the steps in the previous section before starting this process. Fill up a cup or bowl with white vinegar and place it on the top rack in the middle. This will allow the water to come out from the bottom, as well.

Start your dishwasher on the longest, warmest cycle. Every area needs to be cleaned, which means that you’ll need more than an average timespan for the cleaning process. Grease, foul smells, and other bits of unwanted material will be stripped away thanks to the natural properties of white vinegar.

Step 2

Remove the cup from the dishwasher. It should be empty (if it’s full, it should only have water inside). Slide the bottom rack out, sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda over the entire bottom side of the dishwasher, and replace the bottom rack. Close the dishwasher and run it on a hot cycle for the shortest time available on the machine.

Baking soda does a fantastic job of scrubbing down surfaces since it’s naturally exfoliating. It will remove stains and scrub down any other buildup that might be present.

Step 3

Take a warm damp towel and wipe out any residue that might be left from the baking soda. And that’s all you have to do to achieve a sparkly clean dishwasher in under an hour!

Mold Baking soda, vinegar,
and bleach may
help to kill mold
Ahh-Some –
Washing Machine
Bio Cleaner &
Hard water
Baking soda, vinegar, jet dry
Rust Use white vinegar. CLR PRO Calcium,
Lime & Rust Remover,
1 gallon bottle
Lime vinegar, baking soda,
lemon juice
or Borax 
jet dry

Cleaning the Drain, Lines, Tubes, and More

All of the debris removed from your dishes has to go somewhere, right? 

Unfortunately, it can slowly buildup in the drain, leading to clogs and other problems. However, you can quickly and easily fix this issue by following these simple steps:

The best way to clean tubes and lines in the dishwasher is to maintain it properly. These parts only become clogged and dirty if you don’t follow the steps listed above. 

Fortunately, sometimes all you need to do is relieve the air through the air gap next to the sink if you have one. You might also be able to get away with just starting the garbage disposal while the sink is running for about 15 seconds.

If those two suggestions don’t work, then reach back to the white vinegar and baking soda. Remove the drain and pour a mixture of 2 tbsp of baking soda and 1 tbsp of white vinegar in the basket. Let it sit for around 15 to in 20 minutes and then pour in a cup of steaming hot water. 

Run the dishwasher, and it should clear out the blockage. If it doesn’t, you may need to call a professional for assistance. 

Arm Spray

If your spray arms are still dirty after the vinager clean, follow these steps:

  • Hot dish cloth. Use a hot dish cloth with vinegar to scrub the residue off.
  • This should remove any remaining gunk and build up that is left.
  • Check your filter and hoses to make sure they are fully clean or if they are recycling dirty water…which wasn’t cleaned with the vinegar clean.

After melted plastic

  • Remove any loose melted plastic from the heating element…which should be covered. If it is exposed make sure the cover is on tight.
  • Scrub the area, remove residue on the element.
  • The smell should go away after another cleaning.
  • Many times, the smell is just a temporary event that happens when a small plastic dish falls onto the heating element. This shouldn’t be a common occurrence.

Circulating pump

  • Should be cleaned with the vinegar cleaning.
  • Water not circulating?
    • Check the filter. Make sure there is nothing blocking it.
    • Make sure dishwasher detergent is full. This is often overlooked. In newer dishwashers like the Bosch you have to completely fill the dishwasher polisher liquid (that removes all the rinse spots). Once this is done your dishwasher should run.
    • Make sure water is turned on. If you turned it off, it must be turned on so the dishwasher works correctly.

Safety Concerns

When you’re cleaning a dishwasher, it might be confusing whether or not you’re supposed to turn off the power, the water, and so on. Fortunately, you can leave both on in most cases. Cleaning out drain traps, lines, pipes, the entire dishwasher, and most other parts warrants the use of both water and power.

However, when you’re working on anything electrical, such as the pump and heating element, you need to shut off the power. This safety measure will prevent electrical injuries. You can easily do this by heading over to your circuit breaker box, finding the switch or switches labeled ‘dishwasher’ or something of the sort, and turning them off.

Always test any electrical equipment before you use it using a voltmeter. Just because you shut off the power at the box doesn’t mean that you’re out of the woods yet. You might have a box that’s mislabeled or one that doesn’t even include labels in the first place. Using a voltmeter is a necessary safety net to prevent unnecessary injuries.

Once you’ve cleaned and fixed the heating element or the dishwasher pump, you can turn on the power at the circuit breaker box and test your work. Always ensure that each connection is absolutely perfect, as this will prevent electrical sparks, fires, and so on.


Here are the main points you should take away from this article:

  • Cleaning all parts of a dishwasher is a relatively easy process that you can do yourself.

    Also of Interest: 11 Best Retro Refrigerators Available In 2022 The filters, drains, lines, tubes, and dishwasher interior are all cleanable without the help of a professional. 

  • You can clean your dishwasher using home remedies. As long as you have white vinegar, baking soda, and a cup, you’re good to go. 
  • You’ll need to leave the power on when cleaning your dishwasher using most conventional methods. However, if you need to dive into the dishwasher’s inner workings, you should shut the power off for safety reasons.

Recommended Tools & Life Hacks

Anything Else?

Let us know if we missed anything and we will add it to the post.

Comment below on what you use for your checklist.

Thanks for reading!

Researched sources:

Standard Operating Procedure for Glass Washing and Detergent Residues Test

ENERGY STAR® Program Requirements Product Specification for Residential Dishwashers

DOE Regulations Mandate Dishwashers that Don’t Wash Well

Consumers Report: How to clean a dishwasher

CDC: Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities (2008)

D. Hahn

DIY guru, dad, husband, blogger. When I'm not creating life hacks I'm teaching my kids how to fix stuff after their dad breaks it.

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